Rocketman (2019) is an over-the-top biographical musical film directed by Dexter Fletcher (who initially was supposed to direct Bohemian Rhapsody (2018), then replaced, and then later called on to complete the picture). Taron Egerton as Elton John in his early years as a megastar amplifies the highs and lows of rockstardom and John's signature flamboyance, with a voice unlike John's but it does the trick. I thought a few scenes were a touch too sentimental, those with Jamie Bell especially, who plays John's collaborator, the lyricist Bernie Taupin. The film's high points are its fantasy elements, from John levitating over his piano keys to rocketing himself into the skies, plus the stage-musical dance numbers. It's formulaic, in the sense that rock biopics generally tell the same story: socially awkward child or teen shows talent, parents tend to be cruel or self-serving, he (or she if it's Joplin, Winehouse, etc.) hits his twenties and signs a record deal to becomes a superstar, feels unloved, lonely despite all the fame, and falls out with the money-grubbing manager, falls into a pit of drugs, drink and sex, dies or recovers, then the rocker's heyday is remembered with a nostalgic twinge before the credits roll. The formula reflects the idolization of musician greats and the toll that glory takes. It can't be cautionary if it's to work; it's got to show the glamour alongside the insanity of the rock'n'roll god life and not take it too seriously, which Rocketman pulls off with (literally in some scenes) flying colors.
top of page
bottom of page